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Today there are around 25 million business profiles on Instagram and around 200 million people visiting a business profile around the world each day.

67% of Australians aged 18-34 using the app have found new products, services, businesses or organisations, and 53% have bought a product based on what they have seen on the platform.

Instagram's ANZ product marketing lead Talia Knowles-Rivas shared some of the best practice tips for using the app.

1. Think of your profile as the shop window.

Your profile is often the first impression people have of your business – make sure it looks exactly how you want customers to see it and maintain consistency.

“It's the first place that people interact with your brand once they have seen a post or once they have seen an ad.

“Usually they go straight to your profile to get a sense of who you are and what you offer and what you're doing.

“Be very considered of what you put in feed and how you curate this grid and your profile as well.”

2. Use hashtags to increase discovery and build communities.

“Hashtags are a really important way to get discovered on Instagram and it's an important way for building and finding a community that already exists.”

Knowles-Rivas suggests using a mix of both common and niche hashtags relevant to your business to build this community, as well as get discovered by potential customers.

She also suggests encouraging customers to use them to further build that community.

“Encourage your customers to actually use hashtags, and that's a great way to build a community around a product or a brand.”

Add a location tag to posts as well to further increase discovery opportunities.

3. Be timely with your responses to messages and comments.

Knowles-Rivas emphasised the importance of responding to both comments and messages to ensure businesses are engaging with their customer.

There are currently 150 million people using the messaging function to make contact with businesses each month but its initial success was not predicted.

“We didn't realise we would get much traction but it's actually really important for people, once they see something they like on Instagram to communicate with a business to get a bit more information and if you are a business, then you're connecting with your followers and a lot of your followers are your customers.

“You can use it as a way to let people know that there are certain promotions that are running that they might want to take advantage of.

“So, [it's a] really important area to moderate if you are a business.

“Make sure you take note of whether you are getting messages and make sure you respond in a timely way.”

4. Use stories to drive people to your profile and website.

There are now around 400 million monthly active people using stories.

“About 50% of Instagram stories that are viewed are video.”

She explained that 60% are viewed with the sound on which is contrary to the feed with 1 in 3 stories on average receiving a direct message.

Hence stories should be treated differently to the feed.

Use stories to show behind-the-scenes and sneak peek content, as well as to gain feedback from customers through the poll or ask a question tools.

6. Make video vertical.

Knowles-Rivas explained that by 2020 it has been estimated that 75% of mobile internet traffic is going to be video, so it makes sense to create video for the device.

“Mobile is now the primary screen we're using to stream a lot of video we are watching but the next shift in consumer behaviour, we're right in the thick of it at the moment, is this shift from horizontal to vertical viewing.”

5. Use time wisely when creating stories.

People are scrolling through stories as they do with the feed.

“Which means high reach, high frequency but short duration on each piece of individual content.

“So it's important to use time very wisely.

“Brand as early as possible.”

Don't build up to a crescendo as you would for a TVC, she suggests.

“You have to flip that in a mobile environment and make sure that you feature your brand or your product and design with your outcome in mind.”

7. Make the most of the shopping tool in feed, stories and ads.

The shopping tool was introduced to reduce the friction between consumers and businesses when posting content with products.

“The reason we actually built the product called Instagram shopping is because this kind of activity was already happening on the platform.”

Businesses are now able to tag product and link directly through to their sites in both the feed and stories.

To amplify a shopping experience to more potential customers, businesses can also use Instagram collection ads which act as an interactive catalogue.

8. Incorporate online offline.

Close the loop by encouraging customers to share posts about their experience with your product or service.

“In addition to using Instagram to drive people into your store, once they get into your store, then drive people back to the Instagram handle to do something or to share their experience in store as well.”

Encourage customers to mention your business and use hashtags to further build that community.

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